Bahraini refugee and footballer Hakeem al-Araibi became an Australian citizen following a ceremony in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Al-Araibi was dramatically freed from a Thai prison a month ago when authorities withdrew extradition proceedings against him.
The 25-year-old travelled to Thailand on his honeymoon and was arrested upon arrival on November 27, detained on an Interpol notice issued at Bahrain’s request.
Al-Araibi fled his homeland in 2014 before being granted permanent residence in Australia, where he has since lived and is on the books of semi-professional club Pascoe Vale.
Congratulations Hakeem! pic.twitter.com/El6zNX6Oph
— The PFA (@thepfa) March 11, 2019
The pro-democracy advocate has been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in absentia by the Bahrain regime for alleged vandalism but denies any involvement.
However, Al-Araibi can now officially call Australia home after he took the oath in Melbourne, where he was joined by prime minister Scott Morrison.
The Football Victoria Board of Directors, Executive and staff, on behalf of the football family, would like to congratulate Hakeem Al-Araibi on receiving his Australian citizenship today! #FootballUnites pic.twitter.com/76UTTFjfwW
— Football Victoria (@footballvic) March 12, 2019
“Finally, no country can follow me now because I am Australian,” Al-Araibi said. “Bahrain, please don’t follow me. I am now 100 per cent safe in this country.”
Morrison added: “Today is just a stunning day for Australia, it is such a special day for Australia. Hakeem, Australians have just thrown their arms around you.
“And while you were away from us, as you know, they were just willing us on, and if they prayed, they prayed, and if they didn’t, they just urged.
“This is a tremendous day and we welcome you absolutely to the Australian family.”
I am very grateful to you, now I feel save . No one can follow me now pic.twitter.com/MR3uHkS0kG
— Hakeem Alaraibi (@hakeem07746464) March 12, 2019
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